Another gracious teacher

November 9, 2018

For a number of years I’ve been a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild, and as part of the group I enjoy attending the writing conferences held in the spring and fall each year.

A few weeks ago, the most recent conference was held in Aurora, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have time to attend. Then I noticed who the keynote speaker was, and I made time to attend.

The speaker was Alex Kava, a native Nebraskan originally from Silver Creek and bestselling novelist who I’d had the pleasure of first meeting 12 years ago when she was making the rounds to libraries promoting her novel, which had been chosen for the One Book One Nebraska reading choice that year.

Kava was a delightful and kind woman back then, and I found her to be even more that way this October.

She greeted each of us individually before her talk, and she took time to visit with those who wanted to chat after her speech.

She even graciously posed for a photo with me where I held her first novel, “A Perfect Evil,” (which she had signed for me back in 2006) and she held my first novel. Perhaps someday I’ll have 18 novels to my name like she has — one can dream, right.

Not only was she the keynote speaker, but she also conducted a well-attended workshop on what goes into writing a thriller. I took copious notes during both of her talks, but I really paid attention during the thriller workshop because I’m currently attempting to write one.

As a writer and a reader, I’m always intrigued by the working habits of well-established writers, so it’s a treat for me to hear one share her writing routine in person. Kava told us the three things she has to have before she can write a thriller.

Number one, she said that she has to have the book’s title figured out. I nodded along to that one because the title for the book I’m writing was actually the first thing that came to mind for me before I began.

Number two, she told us that she needs to write the first chapter before she can actually start the book. At that, I was feeling pretty good because the first chapter came easily for me, and I think it sets up a solid start for my story.

Number three, Kava said she has to know the ending of her book. At that, my shoulders slumped a little because I wasn’t completely sure how my story would end. Since then, though, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and outlining, which is a process Kava insists is important to do prior to writing a thriller. (She even admitted that she hates to outline. I also hate to outline, so hearing her say that made me smile). I now think I know how my book will end.

Overall I found Alex Kava to be approachable, humble, appreciative of her many readers, humorous, very knowledgeable, forthcoming with advice and encouragement for other writers, and genuine. If you haven’t yet read one of her books, I highly recommend that you pick one up and get to know her writing style.

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Contact Marshall at tamreader@gmail.com.

This month’s reading selection is “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri.

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